Why @ChuckWendig is wrong.

Chuck Wendig’s notoriety extends it’s reach through the viral network of the interwebs with this little post about Turning Writers Into Motherfucking Rockstars. Apparently this would make writers better respected, or at the very least, better paid. I disagree. Vehemently. To show you why, let’s examine some of the unexamined assumptions Wendig builds his case on.

Mommy's boy

Hemmingway? Wilde? Rockstars?!
You see that picture of Hemmingway holding a shotgun? Take away the shotgun, what have you got? A flabby old guy working hard to suck his gut in. Hemmingway was a mommy’s boy who felt the need to act macho and write macho because there wasn’t much else going on behind those clipped sentences. Wilde was gay and liked tea. That describes many British writers of literary fiction and much as I love them they are about as Rock’n’Roll as that sounds. I’ll give you Hunter S. Thompson as a rockstar…but as a writer? While he literally committed the act of writing I thought mostly his readers just looked at the pictures?

Rock’n’Roll = Fame’n’Fortune
Most of the rock’n’roll people I know work as day labourers or, on a good day, call centre assisstants. No disrespect to those noble trades, but they rarely lead to ownership of an MTV crib. The problem with wasted youth is that once you run out of it you still have decades of minimum wage employment ahead of you. Rock stars in mansions? That’s just the star prize the capitalist system offers to one in a million so all the others will persist in the self-destructive behaviour that leaves you unempowered and disenfranchised…IE a perfect member of consumer society.

What are you rebelling against? My own future as an empowered individual.
Why is it that teenage rebels all dress the same? It shouldn’t take more than one rock festival and the sight of fifty thousand identically garbed rebels to make an intelligent person question what’s really going on here. Rock’n’Roll is about as rebelious as slapping a collar and chain around your neck, giving one end to The Man and begging him to make you dance like a puppet on a string. If you want to engage in some real rebellion, try reading a book. But aren’t books for speccy four eyed geeks and old maid spinster crazy cat women? THAT IS WHAT THE MAN WANTS YOU TO THINK. If you were an evil capitalist conspiracy bent on keeping your fellow man as a servile, submissive work force, which would you encourage? Books or Rock’n’Roll? I rest my case.

All the hot chicks are rock chicks.

Rock Chick
Book Geek












I rest my case. Again.

Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll give you something to write about
The case for the defence ask you to look at exhibit A, an interview with rock god Slash of Guns’n’Roses. We particularly like very time he answers a question with a monosylable. If this man ever publishes a book I hope the ghostwriter is good. Very good. I rest my case. For the last time. Except.

Neil Gaiman is a nice person
Not when you’re alone in a room with him and he’s telling you exactly what he thinks of your writing he ain’t.

So as we can see, Wendig’s logic is built on the shabbiest and most crumbly possible foundations. Why would we want writers to be more like rockstars, when rockstars are such uncool minions of The Man? No, what we need to do isn’t crush writers down in to the degraded mold of mass media rockstardom. Instead, we have to raise the masses up until they realise that if you really want the freedom the Rock’n’Roll dream is built on, it’s to be found in the books they are burning, not the CDs they are selling.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

10 thoughts on “Why @ChuckWendig is wrong.

  1. “Wilde was gay and liked tea. That describes many British writers of literary fiction and much as I love them they are about as Rock’n’Roll as that sounds.”

    Har. I think you’re too harsh on HST. When he was on, he was wonderful. But he did a lot to fuel the rep rather than polish the prose (suddenly that sounds salacious).

    A lot of writers (mostly male) seem to wish they were rock stars — not to mention comics artists and writers and comedians who all do as well. Rock stars seem to wish they were comedians.

    I wanted to be Peter Cook. Does that make me a rock star? Or does this riposte position you as the cool geek indie band who don’t really want to be that famous any way, dude, because they’d lose their cred?

    If writers did become like rock stars would we start to have the same trouble with hotels that they do, rendering conferences obsolete. It’s not like we drink the bar dry of everything but Stella (oh, wait…).


    1. All men either want to be rockstars on the messiah. Unfortunately I think I fall in to the second category. at least when I’m thinking like a man.

      I’m considering doing a cover of Nickelback’s ‘Rockstar’ rewritten as ‘Writestar’ with video clips from all my writer friends, to further publicise this issue.

      And yeah, I don’t want to be famous, man. I’m working very hard on not being famous.


      1. In mentioning the anti-rockstar band Nickelback with a sense of familiarity, you are further advancing (retreating?) your plan to not be famous.

        My own spiral into obscurity seems to be succeeding, mostly by writing under so many different names no one can actually figure out what I look like. I have always sought to be the unseen force behind the scenes, only a catalyst. It is my dream to have all my works misattributed. Well on my way.


  2. Who the **** is Chuck Wendig?

    I say that in all serious because I had to look at this blog and read what is, essentially a masturbatory fantasy. I can also say this because in my teen years I did do a bit of the olde RPGing including White Wolf stuff. It’s fun. In the case of WW I think they’re games have an interesting well fleshed out world that’s actually interesting to read about – especially in their manuals. Thing is though, interesting in that the sense that goth chicks are hot, sexy vampires are hot, shotguns and smoking is hot – do you get where I am coming from yet? There’s lots of teen fantasy going on here.

    His post reads like the alpha geek stereotype of the beardy type with their nose pressed right up against the Cool window begging to be let in. If rebelling is looking for acceptance I’ll pass thanks.

    Paradoxically I had quite a rock-n-roll teen life (by these standards) and yes I did score with the sexy goth chicks.

    So I ask again: who the *** is Chuck Wendig and why should give a rats ass?


  3. Looks like you just fell for Linkbait 101, dude. Wendig knows what people want to read and pass on to their friends, and he writes it (with a certain panache, I might add); you may not agree with the content, but there’s a lesson to be taken from the style. Provocation has power, and brings traffic and opprobrium in equal measure. Your response is the evidence. :)

    And I humbly submit that if you think HST was no writer, then you’ve not read his good stuff. He was in decline by the eighties and largely coasted on his reputation from then on, granted, but read his letters, his early journalism; read Las Vegas as what it’s meant to be, namely a fun-house mirror version of an America reeling from the ideological hangover of the hippies and Nam and everything else. Again, it may not be to your personal taste, and that’s fair enough, but to simply write him off as a hack is a mistake. He once typed out the whole of The Great Gatsby, just so he could feel how it felt to write Fitzgerald’s words; I’ve done similar things with some of HST’s own pieces, and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done as a writer that taught me more about the power of rhythm and beat in sentences.

    His original Hell’s Angels piece is online at The Nation at the moment; go read it. http://www.thenation.com/article/motorcycle-gangs?page=full


    1. @PaulGrahamRaven – I don’t think Wendig was all that serious in his point, and I’m not being all that serious in my response. I think a lot of people reading Wendig might take him seriously, but then there is already that tendency in genre. HST, sure, that can all be true, but mostly people look at the pictures right?

      @Antihippy – Wendig is a very funny blogger, and I also enjoyed his short story collection. Your criticisms are correct, that’s probably part of the reason he is funny.



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